English Championship

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Championship wrap: Promotion race intensifies

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As always, things got weird and wild in England’s second-tier on Friday.

Leeds United lost at home to 10-man relegation battlers Wigan Athletic 2-1, despite taking the lead early and Wigan playing a man down for over 75 minutes.

Pablo Hernandez missed an early penalty kick for Marcelo Bielsa’s side who have now dropped out of the automatic promotion spots with three games of the season to go and no longer have their destiny in their own hands. This defeat marked the first time this season that Leeds have lost a game after taking the lead.

As for their main rivals for automatic promotion, Sheffield United rallied in the second half to beat Nottingham Forest on Friday and moved into second behind Norwich City as Blades boss Chris Wilder has done a magnificent job for the club he supports.

Norwich look certainties for promotion and their return to the PL after a three-year absence could be confirmed on Monday, while Sheffield United know they will be back in the Premier League for the first time since 2007 if they win their final three games of the season.

In the playoff race, West Brom, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough all won to sit in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Bristol City and Derby are hanging around just outside the playoff spots with draws to set up a frantic final few weeks. There are some huge teams pushing to be in the playoffs and have a chance of playing in the richest game in soccer at Wembley on May 27, and Villa are the form team right now with nine-straight wins.

At the other end of the table, Bolton’s defeat at home to Villa means they were relegated to the third-tier and they will join Ipswich Town in League One for next season, while Rotherham and Millwall battle to stay out of the final relegation spot.

Below is a look at the standings and points in the promotion race, as the battle to get into the Premier League for the 2019-20 rages on.


As things stand – Championship table, promotion race

Automatic promotion
1st: Norwich City – Played 42, points 86
2nd: Sheffield United – Played 43, points 82

Playoff picture
3rd: Leeds United – Played 43, points 82
4th: West Brom – Played 43, points 76
5th: Aston Villa – Played 43, points 72
6th: Middlesbrough – Played 43, points 67

Pushing for playoffs
7th: Bristol City – Played 42, points 66
8th: Derby County – Played 42, points 64

Fan who punched Grealish jailed; gets 10-year stadium ban

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The justice system in the UK has acted swiftly, as the fan who punched Jack Grealish on Sunday has already been sent to prison.

Paul Mitchell, a Birmingham City fan, pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison. He has also been banned from going to any football stadium in the UK for the next 10 years and was fined $458.

Mitchell, 27, ran onto the pitch during the second-city derby in England’s second-tier on Sunday and punched Aston Villa star Grealish.

The Villa captain was knocked to the floor, but then had the last laugh as he went on to score the winning goal in a 1-0 victory.

[ MORE: Grealish reacts to being punched ]

Birmingham City have released a statement on the fan being jailed.

“Birmingham City Football Club welcomes the sentence handed down to Paul Mitchell by Birmingham Magistrates today. What he did was unacceptable and has no place in football. The Club can confirm that Mr Mitchell is banned from our home ground, the St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium, for life. And nor will he have access to purchase tickets for away games involving Birmingham City Football Club, or have tickets purchased on his behalf.”

“The Club has also banned another supporter for life for a series of vile and malicious Tweets on social media, relating to Jack Grealish and his family. The individual in question remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by West Midlands Police.”

Click play on the video above to watch the shocking incident, as three separate incidents involving fans running on the pitch took place over the weekend in the UK.

Glasgow Rangers James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan in Edinburgh on Friday, while Man United’s Chris Smalling was barged into by an Arsenal fan who ran onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium in celebration on Sunday.

FA Cup fourth round score predictions

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The fourth round of the FA Cup has arrived, as 13 Premier League clubs remain in the competition.

With four all-PL ties, there will only be a maximum of nine top-flight teams in the last 16.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup games ]

With 32 teams remaining, some of the lower league clubs can smell the upsets against and are still dreaming of a dramatic run to the semifinals and final at Wembley in April and May.

But in the here and now, there’s no doubt that the tie of the round takes place on Friday as Arsenal host Manchester United in a heavyweight clash at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have won the FA Cup three times in the last five years, while United reached the final last season and won the trophy in 2016.

Some other standout fixtures sees Crystal Palace host Tottenham in a London derby, while Man City host Burnley and Watford travel to Newcastle in the other clash between PL clubs.

Focusing on potential upsets, Newport County head to Middlesbrough after beating Leicester City last time out, while Wimbledon host West Ham and Everton head to Millwall for tough encounters. Holders Chelsea host second-tier Sheffield Wednesday.

Below is the full schedule for the FA Cup games over the next few days, as we have also given our score predictions.


Friday
2:45 p.m. ET: Bristol City 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
2:55 p.m. ET: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United

Saturday (all kicks off 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise stated)
7:30 a.m. ET: Accrington Stanley 0-3 Derby County
Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Oldham Athletic
Newcastle United 2-2 Watford
Middlesbrough 1-2 Newport County
Manchester City 3-1 Burnley
Portsmouth 1-2 QPR
Swansea City 3-1 Gillingham
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Shrewsbury Town 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
12:30 p.m. ET: Millwall 1-1 Everton
2:45 p.m. ET: AFC Wimbledon 1-3 West Ham United

Sunday
11 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
1 p.m. ET: Chelsea 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Monday
2:45 p.m. ET: Barnet 1-2 Brentford

USMNT’s Matt Miazga loaned to Reading

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U.S. men’s national team defender Matt Miazga has joined Reading on loan until the end of the season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Miazga, 23, had been on loan from Chelsea to Ligue 1 side Nantes but he last featured for the French side in October. The New York Red Bulls academy product has instead joined second-tier Reading until the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

The Royals, a favorite club for Chelsea to loan players out to, currently sit third from bottom in the Championship and are in a real relegation scrap after they fired Paul Clement and hired Jose Gomes in December. They are two points from safety.

Speaking about this move, Gomes is keen to work with Miazga.

“Matt is a skilful, committed and commanding presence at the centre of defence and I am very pleased we have been able to welcome him into our family. I am now looking forward to working with him on the training pitch for the first time,” Gomes said.

Reading have also added four more loan players this month with Nathan Baker also arriving from Chelsea, plus they’ve brought in Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal, Nelson Oliveira from Norwich and Ovie Ejaria from Liverpool.

Miazga needs to play and he will get plenty of opportunities at Reading, who have 18 games left in their league season. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will be keeping a keen eye on Miazga ahead of the friendly against Chile in March, which will see the new head coach able to call up players from European leagues for the first time.

Long-term Miazga was supposed to be a star at center back for the U.S. alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers and John Brooks, but you have to say the latter is the only one of the trio to kick on in recent months. Both Miazga and CCV have fallen victim to being signed for big clubs in the Premier League and being loaned out, while not getting regular minutes.

Miazga was bought by Chelsea in January 2016 and played in two PL games in his first season at Stamford Bridge, but was then loaned out to their feeder club, Vitesse Arnhem in Holland for two seasons. Miazga thrived in Holland, winning the Dutch Cup in 2016-17 and he was a regular in both of his campaigns in the Dutch top-flight. However at Nantes he played in nine games early this season but was then frozen out after a new manager, Vahid Halilhodzic, arrived.

Here’s hoping that he can play regularly at Reading and get himself ready for a big summer with the USMNT with the Gold Cup coming up.

Ashley Cole signs with Lampard’s Derby County

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Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole won eight major trophies together as players, now they’re teaming up once more — only this time, left back Cole will be playing for manager Lampard.

[ MORE: Arsenal’s head of recruitment leaving club after one year ]

Derby County announced on Monday that the 38-year-old Cole has signed a six-month contract to aid the Championship side’s push for Premier League promotion. The Rams currently sit sixth in England’s second division, holding onto the fourth and final playoff place by a slim two-point margin.

Cole has been without a club since the 2018 MLS season ended and LA Galaxy declined his option for 2019.

Lampard, predictably, is quite pleased he’ll be working with his former teammate and longtime friend in an all new capacity:

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to secure Ashley’s services for the rest of the season.

“He’s a fantastic player, a quality left back, and he also brings great experience to the dressing room.

“Ashley is in good shape, which doesn’t surprise me because he’s an excellent professional, and he will compete for a place in the side like every other player here.

“I’ve made my feelings known over the last couple of days just how highly I think of Ashley and I have no doubt whatsoever he will be a positive addition to our squad.”